There are few experiences that changed me as a person and empowered me like the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute did this summer.
The five-day program is held at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. There are several sessions throughout the summer with about 80 students in each, and I was lucky to meet and become friends with extraordinary Greek students and leaders from across the country and Canada.
During the program, we learn who we are as leaders, the values that guide us, the problems facing our own Greek communities and those on a national scale, and how as individuals, we can confront these problems. I left with a deeper understanding of who I am as a leader and person and an invigorated passion to lead my chapter and Greek community.
In this past, I have been guilty of shying away from issues that seem impossible to change. But with the program’s theme of “start with you”, I learned that even as an individual in my chapter of 100 women and Greek community of about one thousand, I can set a standard and start conversations about the issues we face—unity across chapters, alcohol and drug abuse, and hazing.
I am not sure exactly when it all clicked—that these issues could in fact be conquered, and that it is not only within my power, but is my responsibility, to help establish culture change.
We were split up into ten person chapters for small group discussion, and I was inspired by my chapter members, among whom are a refounding father, someone who wants to start a colony of his organization on another campus, and someone who trying to institute culture change in his struggling chapter. I was inspired and motivated by these students as well as my facilitators, who are professionals in the fraternity and sorority field, throughout the week.
From a conversation with a new friend about the terminology of “frat”, “TSM”, and “TFM”, and how they are degrading to our Greek chapters, to an emotional and passionate group debate about whether Greek life deserves to continue (the jury decided it does not), I learned that little actions and mindsets amount to and cause the larger problems.
Besides confronting and discussing the big issues, I left with many take aways and self-checks to guide my new path. I now will remember to ask myself, “If our founders were in the room right now, would they be proud of what we are doing?”
While there were countless powerful moments throughout the week, when I think back to my time at UIFI I will remember our general session about ritual. Our session facilitator was discussing how we keep our chapter ritual so secret, but we should be proud to live and communicate our values to others. He recited the opening pledge of his fraternity and then encouraged us to stand up and do the same. Listening to other sorority and fraternity creeds made me realize that we all stand by similar values, and reinforced the fact that we are values-based organizations, and must live by them.
-Kerry Mallett, Alpha Gamma Delta